The City’s Son – Tom Pollock

DISCLAIMER: Tom Pollock once bought me a pint. As a result I cannot guarantee complete neutrality.

The City’s Son is Tom Pollock’s debut novel and the first in The Skyscraper Throne YA series. As regular readers of this blog will know, I don’t read YA as a rule, but I made an exception for this book, a) because he once bought me a pint (see above), and, b) because it’s been very well previewed.  I’m very glad I did, because it’s an immensely enjoyable and fluently written urban fantasy set in a hidden London and filled with characters and creatures which bear testament to Pollock’s imagination and immersion in the genre.

Beth is a troubled graffiti artist kicked out of school, her mother dead, her father lost in grief. All she has is her Pakistani friend Pen, who has problems of her own to deal with. One night, out in the city, Beth is catapulted into the London of grey-skinned, railing spear-wielding, Fil, the eponymous Son of the City, his mother a goddess missing for years. Fil’s London is full of wonderful creatures: dancing, filament-filled glass women who live in the city’s lampposts, wire-dwelling spiders whose home is the Crystal Palace radio mast (a sight for sore eyes, in a manner of speaking, as I grew up in Crystal Palace), stone-clad undying priests, not to mention the darker inhabitants, the Wire Mistress and Scaff Wolves, servants of Reach the all-destroying Crane King, against whom Fil and Beth must battle to save their home.

The city is a character in itself, and the story takes us from North to South, East to West, from gentrified neighbourhoods, to graffiti-covered underpasses, and up the shining faces of the skyscrapers of docklands, huddled as they are against the warehouses of the East End. Pollock captures the facets of London’s identity very effectively, taking us from the heights to the depths, usually quite literally.

There are no fairy tale endings in Pollock’s London: this is a dark, death-filled, and hard-hitting novel beneath the surface of which lie themes of urban decay, regeneration and development, prejudice, abuse, and, I think, a hint of LGBTQ. Sprinkled with a good dose of humour and few good-natured swipes at the urban fantasy canon, this was a great read. If all YA was like this, I’d probably read more.

Books I’m Looking Forward To

UPDATE: I forgot one!

A Box of Birds – Charles Fernyhough

A thriller set in the world of brain research investigating the clash between materialism and Freudian therapy, Fernyhough looks to investigate the kinds of explanation that can work in fiction, and in considerations of what it means to be human. On the basis of this pitch I supported the book on Unbound. I want to see how it works,


I’ll be posting a review of John Banville’s Ancient Light in the next few days, but in the meantime I thought I would post a selection of new books I’m looking forward to in the coming months, some of which have landed on my doormat recently. This is a very short non-exhaustive list which rather favours big names. Feel free to suggest others!

Toby’s Room – Pat Barker

The new novel by the author of the Regeneration Trilogy returns to World War One and roughly meshes with the events of Life Class which I was a little disappointed by. Word is that this one is very dark and very good indeed.



NW – Zadie Smith

After Keith Ridgway’s wonderful Hawthorn and Child another novel of London and its inhabitants which will be very different but, I hope, equally brilliant.





The City’s Son – Tom Pollock

Many years ago I went to the pub with Tom Pollock. I’m pretty sure he bought a round, so that’s in his favour. He also mentioned wanting to write. This very well previewed fantasy/YA novel set in a world of ‘monsters and miralces’ is one of the books I really wish I’d got hold of before release.


Rook – Jane Rusbridge

‘Look at the stars, Rook. Tell me what you know.’
Set in the village of Bosham on the Sussex coast, Jane Rusbridge’s second novel tackles buried secrets, history, memory, and the meaning of home.



Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure – Artemis Cooper

I simply adore Patrick Leigh Fermor, one of the great individuals of the Twentieth Century. Soldier, traveller, linguist, and writer, this man was incredible. Amongst his wonderful books are the chronicles of his walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople (as was) in the Thirties, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. The third and final installment of that trilogy is being put together by Cooper after this book. I am very excited. See also his books about Greece, where he lived for much of his life: Mani, Roumeli, and a collection titled Words of Mercury. I’m saying nothing…

Train Dreams – Denis Johnson

If you haven’t read any Denis Johnson then you simply must. Go and get Tree of Smoke. You’ll thank me. This  short novel of the American West is one of the books that was in the running for the unawarded Pulitzer Prize.



Merivel – Rose Tremain

Following on from Tremain’s 1989 Restoration, Merivel returns to the eponymous courtier and physician in middle age and finds him in a more reflective, but ever mirthful mood. As he journeys across Europe everything seems to go wrong except, I hope, Tremain’s writing.